Artists' Responses to Christina Rossetti

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Posted 5th February 2019

Artists' Responses to
Rossetti's Poetry

When Rossetti's poetry became widely known, her enigmatic words and vivid imagery began to inspire artists. Among the first to base compositions on lines from her verse were Arthur Hughes and Julia Margaret Cameron.

By the end of the nineteenth century artists including the Belgian Symbolist Fernand Khnopff were mining the more introspective and soul-searching of her poems for material.

More recently, the increasing popularity of artists' books has created an arena for innovative interpretations of Rossetti's poetry. Today's artists continue to find fresh inspiration in her words, as her many readers do.

Arthur Hughes, The Mower, 1865, oil on canvas

In 1865 Hughes, who went on to illustrate Rossetti's two children's books, loosely based this oil painting on 'Old and New Year Ditties, 3'. This is a wistful poem about loss, transience and mortality:

Passing away, saith the World, passing away:

Chances, beauty and youth sapped day
by day:
Thy life never continueth in one stay.
Is the eye waxen dim, is the dark hair
changing to grey
That hath won neither laurel nor bay?

See Christina Rossetti: Vision & Verse on display until 17 March.


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